From the Desk of the Federation Executive Director: With gratitute 2/12/21

By Shelley Hubal

I wept last night. I felt it coming for days and I am glad it finally bubbled up and spilled out. There were several reasons for the tears. The mid-winter blues are hitting hard this year. Not leaving the house for days because of the weather, a sore back and the pandemic has certainly played a role. Saying good-bye to my second child, Rae, last weekend when they went back to college has roused mixed emotions. It is a great pleasure to see your offspring happy, independent and successful, but the house feels empty without Rae’s gentle presence. I miss my mother and sister who live in Arizona. FaceTime is great, but what a comfort it would be to share a meal or hug with them.

What is weighing most heavy on my mind and spirit is the reaction of some community members to the Jewish Federation of North America’s statement in response the the Capitol insurrection that was printed in the January 15 issue of The Reporter. The criticism is that the statement’s call to move forward from that horrific event gave a pass to the perpetrators and political leaders that incited the riotous mob. I have said before in this column that I am not comfortable discussing politics. My grandfather, a respected attorney, was a proponent of keeping your political views to yourself and letting your vote do the talking. It is not a far leap to say my reluctance to jump into the political scrum colored my judgment when we decided to print the benign JFNA statement. 

What happened on January 6 at our nation’s Capitol, our sacred home of democracy, was disgusting and heartbreaking. That the insurrection was fueled by disinformation from the U.S. president and antisemitic conspiracy theories is terrifying and is a cause for great alarm to Jewish people worldwide. I apologize that these statements were not made clear. 

What I will not apologize for is working to keep our community unified during the conversations that have taken place after the insurrection and the JFNA response was printed. Didn’t Hillel sum up the Torah as “what is hateful to you, do not do to another”? If we let the viciousness of our American politics infect our small Jewish community, there will be no winners. We will lose the next generation of leaders. We will lose friendships. We will lose our Jewish institutions. Not every Trump supporter is a racist or antisemite, just as not every Democrat is a crazed, anti-Israel liberal. There are supporters of our former president who have legitimate policy opinions. I might not agree with those positions, but since when did that become a reason to hate? I don’t like being labeled and I will not to do that to others. 

There is important work to do to keep the Federation on a clear path that keeps our organizations whole and upholds our Jewish values. The most meaningful part of this work is the people. Our Jewish neighbors, be they Republican or Democrat, are what matter most. I consider it a blessing and an honor that this community entrusts me with the responsibility to be a leader. As the second impeachment trial of Trump begins, there will certainly be no end in sight to the name calling and rhetoric. On a personal front, I know the lessons of January 2021 are not over and I will continue to search my soul for what I feel is just. It is my sincerest hope that each of us take a long look at what we value most. Only from unity of purpose we will find the strength to endure the difficult times and enjoy the best of times.